Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 95th session, 3-12 June 2015 (opening address)


(3 to 12 June 2015)
Good morning, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the ninety-fifth session of the Maritime Safety Committee.

Before moving to the issues related to this particular session, I would like to express my sorrow of hearing of the tragic capsize in the Yangtze River of the passenger ships carrying 456 passengers and crew, which was caused by severe weather conditions, last Monday.  I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the families of the victims.  I understand that there is still a large number of passengers trapped in the capsized ship and I pray that their lives can be saved.  I would like to extend all best wishes to the Chinese authorities with the rescue operations. I would like to request the Chinese delegation to convey this message to Minister Yang of the Ministry of Transport and that we are always behind him and praying for a successful rescue operation.

Distinguished delegates,

Since these are my last opening remarks at MSC, I would like to, first of all, quickly review some important issues on your agenda; secondly, comment on two specifically significant matters at this session, namely, passenger ship safety and maritime migrants; and finally, I would like to state my expectations on the future work of the MSC.

First of all, I noted a number of important issues on your agenda.

On maritime security, the Committee will discuss the issue of cyber threats in addition to counter-piracy measures. You also have an important debate on the cost of the LRIT audit. I hope that the Committee will have constructive discussions on these issues.

On our activities to help industry to move towards cleaner energy consumption, the expected adoption of the IGF Code at this session is an important milestone.

On our attempt to make progress towards e-navigation, the Committee's approval of the Guidelines on Software Quality Assurance and Human Central Design for e-navigation is also another step to encourage the industry to take action to support the concept of e-navigation.  The expected approval of the performance standards for multi-system shipborne radionavigation receivers is also an important action.

On the issue of requirements for periodic servicing and maintenance of lifeboats, launching appliances and release gear, I hope that the Committee will discuss this important issue and provide clear instructions on how the inconsistencies identified at MSC 93 should be resolved.

In this regard, I would remind the Committee that the number of lifeboat accidents continues to be unacceptably high, frequently leading to serious injuries and fatalities. Ensuring a high standard of life-saving appliances is vital for seafarers, in the first place, and I encourage the Committee to take decisions at this session so that the Committee could achieve the desired objective of this long debate on which we have already spent years now.

On the development of measures for onboard lifting appliances and winches, I encourage the Committee to decide on whether mandatory SOLAS requirements should be prepared in addition to the development of guidelines.

With respect to fishing vessel safety, I hope that the Committee can now confirm the holding of a Joint FAO-IMO Working Group in IUU Fishing.

On the safety of passenger ships, I welcome the work of the SDC Sub-Committee on amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 and I am looking forward to further input from the next phase of the EU-funded research, Goal Based Damage Stability Project, for our work on the revision of subdivision index "R", which should reduce the vulnerability of passenger ships after damage.

We have many other issues such as, means of escape and evacuation procedures, watertight door operation during voyages, progress report on Goal Based Standard for new construction of bulk carries and oil tankers; but, because of time constraints, I cannot provide further remarks.

Distinguished delegates, 
I wish to take a few moments to reflect again on the safety of passenger ships in light of the accidents and incidents we have witnessed over the recent past.  Looking back some 15 years or so, the Organization took a proactive approach to the safety of passenger ships in the light of the increasing size of cruise ships, in particular.  That approach resulted in many enhancements to the safety regime for large passenger ships, and the ships being brought into service today clearly benefit from the work undertaken here at this Organization.

Unfortunately, whilst the safety standards on passenger ships in international voyages has advanced considerably, the same cannot be said for passenger shipping in the domestic sector.  Since the beginning of 2014, more than 20 ships carrying passengers on domestic short-sea voyages have suffered severe accidents, with the loss of nearly 1,000 lives.  

The most notable one was the capsizing and sinking of the ro-ro passenger ferry Sewol on 16 April 2014.   That same day of the tragic accident, I wrote to H.E. the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to convey the profound sympathy and compassion on behalf of the entire membership of IMO, the Secretariat and myself to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.

At your 93rd session, last year, I stated that I was deeply concerned by the current, high level of approximately 1,000 lives lost in accidents at sea every year and, therefore, I wish the Organization’s top priority to be the reduction of this appalling figure by half, with the primary aim of saving the lives of passengers as well as those of seafarers.  I stated that the time has come for IMO to take further action to improve the safety of domestic passenger ships, which often carry hundreds of people.  The travelling public has every right to expect that safety standards on domestic passenger ships should not only be the highest practicable but also match these to be expected on passenger ships operating on international voyages.

The Conference on the enhancement of safety of ships carrying passengers on non-international voyages was held on 24 April this year, in Manila, for which I again express my profound appreciation and deep respect for the decision of the Government of the Philippines to host this important conference.  The outcome of the conference is reported in the document TC 65/INF.12 and the Secretariat will provide the main outcome orally, at this session of the Committee as well, but the conference adopted a statement acknowledging the urgent need to enhance the safety of ships carrying passengers on non-international voyages.  The statement also urges States to review and update national regulations in relation to their passenger ferries and to apply the guidelines considered at the conference aiming at ensuring that a ship is fit for purpose in its intended role. I recognize that domestic ferry operations play a crucial role in the movement of people and goods, and sometimes represent the only possible or reasonably affordable means of transport.  The safety of domestic ferries is a shared responsibility between Governments and the industry. I firmly believe that the currently unacceptable level of casualties and incidents involving domestic ferries can be avoided if adequate laws, regulations and rules are developed and effectively implemented and enforced.  I have pledged, at the Manila Conference, to step up technical cooperation projects in this regard in the future.

While we are making progress in the field of safety of domestic passenger ships within our Technical Cooperation activities, the recent accident involving the ro-ro passenger ship Norman Atlantic has again focused global attention on the safety of ro-ro passenger ships and the rescue of passengers.  The international nature of the passengers and crew highlighted the need for an international response through IMO.

While expressing my condolences to the families of those lost in the accident of the Norman Atlantic, I drew attention, in the beginning of this year, to the need to investigate this accident in order to take action at this Organization.  I urged the authorities of Italy and Greece to accelerate the process of casualty investigation and submit findings to IMO as soon as possible.

In my note to the MSC, namely in document MSC 95/6, I summarized the current status of IMO’s passenger ship safety initiatives, long-term action plan on passenger ship safety and highlighted the importance of a speedy conduct of the casualty investigation by flag State authorities and the submission of any findings, final or preliminary, on the causes of the accident.  I noted that we have not yet received any information as submission from the authorities of the flag State but I hope that, during this week, we will be provided with information on the latest status of the casualty investigation, so that the Committee could discuss what action it could take at this session.

Distinguished delegates,

The statistics in the Mediterranean in 2014 record that more than 200,000 people were rescued; and over 3,000 died in unsafe, irregular/illegal sea passage.

I spoke on the need for concerted action by UN agencies at last November Chief Executive Board of the UN and I proposed to hold an inter-agency meeting of the UN, which was held at IMO Headquarters, on 4-5 March this year.  We made some progress and the Secretariat will provide the outcome of that meeting under agenda item 21.

This year, around 1,800 people drowned in the Mediterranean.  In April, more than 900 people died over one weekend. Last week, more than 4,000 people were rescued in the Mediterranean.

We have seen similar phenomena in Asian waters.  An estimated 63,000 people are believed to have travelled by boats and crafts in irregular and dangerous ways in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, last year.  Another 25,000 have travelled in the first quarter of this year.  They are part of a complex, mixed migratory movement composed of refugees, stateless people and economic migrants.

The UN Secretary-General stated that “we need a comprehensive approach to this challenge” and “the root causes of migration need to be addressed”.

The High-level meeting held at IMO Headquarters in March focussed on issues of mixed migration by sea in the Mediterranean region and, particularly, the large number of persons embarking on unseaworthy crafts and the high number of lives lost.  Attention has now been drawn by relevant UN organizations, to similar situations in other parts of the world, in particular in Southeast Asia.  In addition, the European Union has presented a European agenda on migration outlining the measures it will take in response to the situation in the Mediterranean.

As the Committee is invited to consider the report of the inter-agency High-level meeting at this session of the MSC, I believe that it would be an opportunity to also consider recent developments globally, regionally and nationally, in response to the ongoing issue of mixed migration by sea in many areas of the world.

The Committee may also wish to take this opportunity to consider what further action could be taken in response to the growing demand on merchant shipping to address the problem of searching for, rescuing, caring for and disembarking migrants rescued at sea.

Recognizing that the scale of mass rescue operations is beyond the capacity of the merchant shipping industry to absorb alone, there is a need for the international community and governments to make special arrangements for maritime rescue operations.  Furthermore, there is a need to address the root causes of migration and criminal activities of smugglers and human traffickers.

As Mr. Ban clearly stated, this problem needs a comprehensive and holistic approach and in my view, IMO, as a specialized agency of the UN, should contribute to the efforts of the UN and the international community.

With this spirit and having consulted with the Chairman of the Committee, I propose to hold a special session on Tuesday, 9 June, commencing at 9.30 am, to discuss the issue of unsafe mixed migration by sea, under agenda item 21.

I have released the document MSC 95/21/13 providing information on this session and invited UNHCR, UNODC and IOM to attend the session.  I have also consulted a number of Asian countries affected by the recent developments in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea; all of which have wholeheartedly supported this initiative.  Furthermore, I spoke to Mr. Ban, over the phone, and briefed him on IMO’s activities on the matter of mixed migration by sea.  He appreciated the activities of IMO on this issue and said that he would provide his personal message to the special session arranged on Tuesday, 9 June.

I hope that we will have a fruitful discussion at this session.

Distinguished delegates,

Since this is my last opportunity to provide my opening remarks at MSC, let me speak briefly on my expectations about the activities of this Committee in future.

I think MSC needs high aims and targets set for its future activities.

With this in my mind, during the past three years, I have stated that the accident zero campaign should be carried out, maritime casualty should be reduced by half, and piracy should be eliminated.
I organized the future ship safety symposium and proposed to work out SOLAS 2024 which could replace 1974 SOLAS.

I stated that the survivability of passenger ships after damages should be further improved.

I stated that the safety of domestic passenger ships should be improved and, in future, SOLAS should cover the safety standards of domestic passenger ships.

MSC should set high targets and encourage shipping and shipbuilding industries and ship designers to meet these future challenges.

Today, I would like to add another challenge for MSC for its future activities.

The most important function of MSC is the legislative one. That is, the rule-making activity. I hope that MSC will set international rules and regulations that encourage new technologies and innovations leading to further reduction of maritime casualties and further promotion of the safety of international shipping.

I hope that MSC could set high targets or goals for the industry to achieve through technological innovations, bringing new designs and new technologies into the market in order to further improve the safety of life at sea. MSC must be the driving force for new technologies and innovations for the safety in the future.

In the 1970s, IMO's objectives were said to aim at the global application of the highest practicable standards. In the beginning of the 1980s, the emphasis was on technical cooperation for the implementation of those practical standards.

While we saw a significant expansion of our legislative activities in the environmental front since 1990, covering double-hull requirements, PSSA, Ballast Water Management, prohibition of harmful anti-fouling paints, prevention of air pollution and energy efficiency in the context of the climate change debate, our safety regulations have not seen much of innovative actions except for the response to major maritime casualties such as the Herald of Free Enterprise, the Scandinavian Star, the Estonia, numerous bulk carriers and, most recently, the Costa Concordia.

We have put serious efforts on the debate on risk assessment approach and goal-based regulations but what we have achieved in the legislative field is still in my view marginal or virtually nil.

We have already passed the ages of only aiming at highest practical standards. We should encourage new technologies and innovations. We should move into a new age of development at the Maritime Safety Committee to encourage innovations and new technologies for improved safety of future ships.

These are my last words to the Committee and I wish you all and the Committee the very best in your future activities.

This is also the last session for your Chairman, Christian Breinholt of Denmark, and I also give him my best wishes for a successful meeting. I am sure that delegates will extend their usual spirit and support in order to ensure the success of this meeting.

The Secretariat will do its utmost to support both the Chairman and the work of the Committee and, as usual, I look forward to seeing you all at the customary cocktail reception, this time, kindly hosted by CIRM and other industry organizations, in the Delegates’ Lounge, after close of business, this evening.

Thank you.